On paper, the sides are a mismatch both in terms of history and current line ups, but somehow destiny has contrived to place Manchester United and Southampton in the EFL Cup final on Sunday.
And much as the teams they helm, their managers have had drastically different careers, with success finding Jose Mourinho on great many occasions than his opposite number, Claude Puel.
Having said that, no match was ever won on paper and whether United romp home or Southampton script a seismic upset, the battle will be won in the minds of the two tacticians on the touchline.
So how do the two managers compare? Let’s find out.
After the great Ronaldo-Messi debate, perhaps the biggest, most burning question in world football is: Is Jose Mourinho as great as he claims?
To be fair to him, after a disastrous second season in his second spell at Chelsea, the Portuguese tactician has mellowed down a bit.
Serial winner at Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and then Chelsea again, the self-proclaimed ‘Special One’ is now in the midst of his latest and arguably, most challenging project, placing Manchester United back at the top of the English football pile.
The man who has won two Champions League titles with different clubs, and has broken records wherever he went is without doubt, one of the great managers, a point reinforced by the overflowing trophy cabinet he possesses in a 16-year managerial career.
Arguably the best coach from a defensive standpoint, Mourinho is reviled and respected in equal measure for making his teams almost impossible to beat. The footballing term ‘park the bus’ is said to have originated from his first tenure at Chelsea, proving that with backs-to-the-wall defending and maximum efficiency on the counter, even the most star-studded of teams can be humbled.
And last but not the least, are his man-management skills which can allegedly make or break a players' career. With his subtle pokes and jabs, Mourinho wrings the best out of his players, by daring them to prove him wrong.
If you couple this tendency along with the massive change in mentality that he brings to the table, it is easy to see why he has enjoyed such unprecedented success in his relatively short career cycle.
While he may not stay as long as Sir Alex Ferguson did at Old Trafford, it will be difficult to deny him his first major trophy in his debut season with the Red Devils on Sunday.
Apart from his affinity to a pragmatic approach to football as opposed to a free-flowing football which pleases fans, Mourinho’s other drawback is his apparent distrust of youth. This prevailing theory is hard to dispute with, as the Portuguese prefers results over anything and perhaps that is why United are the bookies favourites to lift their fifth EFL Cup title.
Is Claude Puel the complete opposite of Jose Mourinho?
That would be a stretch but there are stark differences to their managerial approaches and career.
A combative midfielder as a player, spending the entirety of his career at Monaco, Puel’s tenacity is highly regarded even today.
Making the transition from playing to managing seamlessly, Puel won the Ligue 1 title with his beloved Monaco in his debut managerial season.
If things were supposed to go on the up and up since then, they didn't as the Frenchman found himself carving out a reputation as a manager who took relatively small teams such as Lille and transformed them into sides who punched above their weight consistently.
While his six-year stint with Lille failed to bring home any titles, he spotted then 16-year-old Eden Hazard’s talent and invited him to train with the senior side. His penchant for merging youth with experience was noticed there and he moved to French giants Olympique Lyon next.
Lyon were a side that were dominating French football at the time and while they stunned the mighty Real Madrid in the Champions League, they struggled mightily in Ligue 1 despite considerable player investments, which lead to Puel’s subsequent dismissal.
A time with relative minnows Nice followed, where again he proved that he could maximise the potential of a club with modest ambitions to compete against the nation’s heavyweights.
In his debut season at Southampton he has managed to keep them in the top half and scripted a famous semifinal victory over United’s arch-rivals, Liverpool. His keen eye saw that Nathan Redmond was better suited as a centre-forward than a wide winger and that shift brought instant dividends in the two-legged semifinal, in which the Saints won home and away.
Most of his former wards speak highly of him, complimenting his man-management techniques and his impressively laid out practices sessions. Puel doesn't trust prospects blindly as some managers do, yet isn't afraid to put them in the deep end when he has to.
While the Saints face an uphill task to break their trophy drought that has lasted 41 years, there is perhaps no man better equipped to accomplish the feat.